There’s no manual for how to deliver a meaningful customer experience during a pandemic, much less how to protect your business, your brand and your short-term profitability and build long-term customer loyalty. The brands that emerge the strongest will be the ones that focus on their most valuable resources – customers and employees.
Here are five customer experience tips to activate now, as you’re steering your business through this uncharted territory:
- Serve, don’t sell your unique proposition – Now’s a time to use our unique propositions to serve. On March 19, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan announced he would provide temporary free access to K-12 students and teachers who suddenly found themselves conducting classes online. Zoom could have taken advantage of COVID-19 and charged for their teleconference platform, but instead they are looking at the long-term upside of offering it free – extensive PR coverage and tens of thousands of new users on their solution. Not all the PR has been positive, but overall, their actions will be seen as customer friendly in the long term. Like Zoom, enterprises in this crisis may not make a profit, but we sure can strengthen our relationships. Scott Greenberg, NEXT LEVEL business speaker and franchising expert, is absolutely correct when he says, “It’s the right thing to do, it’s what customers need most right now, and it’s what they’ll remember later.”
- If you can’t use it, donate it – Walt Disney World has closed their parks for the remainder of March, and will donate all perishable food to local shelters and food banks. The cost to coordinate those donations will be in the thousands, but the good will and loyalty it will create is, as they say at Disney World, “magical.” Do you have items that will expire or get dated? Consider donating them to a local charity, offering them to your loyal customers or to your employees as thanks for helping to make your business work.
- Accommodate your customers – What do your customers need and how can you accommodate them? Many small grocery chains have created special shopping hours for their elderly clients so that vulnerable population can avoid crowds and shop for essentials. Whether it’s free delivery, curbside pickup or special hours, the key is making adjustments to your model to serve your customers and ensure the safety of your staff.
- Make cancellations easy – The travel and hospitality industry has been hard hit, and the short-term outlook doesn’t look much brighter, but many brands have handled the situation exceptionally well. Now is not the time to charge cancellation fees that irritate your customers in the best of times, but in these circumstances might drive them away from your brand forever. Instead, go over the top to make cancellations and rebooking easy. You’re not going to recover a fraction of what will be lost during the outbreak, so focus on the future and on the brand loyalty you will create.
- Don’t cut customer experience – It’s almost impossible to do business as usual in this economically challenging time, but carefully consider where you cut. Find places to scale back that don’t have an obvious or visible impact on customer experience. You don’t want to taint a good reputation. According to customer experience expert Shep Hyken, our customers will ultimately remember who gave them a great experience and who did not.
The best defense against the uncertainty of the coronavirus is to deliver a caring, personalized experience that puts profits behind service. In the long run, the loyalty you build by doing your best will help to heal your business.
I hope to see you online at the virtual ISG Xperience Summit, June 2, starting at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. No question, the many lessons we learn about customer, user and employee experience during this pandemic will set the stage for important and impactful conversations.
About the author
John Boccuzzi, Jr. is Senior Director Sales, ISG Research, which is the community that brings together buyers and sellers of digital services and technologies, leveraging ISG’s data and market insights.
John runs a dynamic team of professionals that work closely with service providers to understand their needs and create solutions to drive success. A recognized speaker, blogger and TEDx speaker, John is a passionate thought leader in the area of Customer Experience. In 2018 John’s TEDx talk “I was Seduced by Exceptional Customer Service” was the most popular CX video of year by Omoto. John prides himself on focusing on the client’s needs and then developing unique solutions that will set an organization on the correct path.